I'm looking for a word to describe really white skin, said by someone about him- or herself or other people at, say, the beach:

Irish girl sunbathing

As an example, in my mother tongue I would say something like "nuclear white" or "radioactive white" because of the way such a white seems to glow:

My cat is evolving

Do those expressions sound natural in English? What expression would you use in the following example?

Wow, I really need to get tanned. I/I'm ______!

  • 3
    I (non-native) can't come up with anything that accompanies white that would fit that example sentence. If it was me, to sound self-deprecating, I would probably say ”I'm so pale!”.
    – Mikiko
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 8:56
  • There is "Porcelain Skin" but that also implies a smooth, not just a pale, complexion.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 9:46
  • 1
    I can't think of a single word that would go in the blank, but these constructions are ones I've heard or that sound natural to this US native: I'm so white I almost glow in the dark. I'm so white I'm almost transparent. I'm blindingly white. I'm fish-belly white. I'm white as a sheet of paper.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 11:43
  • @stangdon Thanks! I've updated the sample sentence to make it less restrictive.
    – Yay
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 11:46
  • @Yay, use "at the beach," not "in." Use "to describe really white skin," not "to describe a really white skin." If you use the article here, it sounds as if you are describing "a skin" taken from an animal! Also, there is disagreement in number in "said by someone about themselves." "Someone" is singular, while "themselves" is plural. Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 4:19

4 Answers 4


"Pasty" would fit that meaning. Not necessarily "pasty white", just "pasty".



Google search for "pale tan -new" brings up such results as

How to tan when you're super pale?

I'LL TRY ANYTHING ONCE: Pale-Girl-Goes-Tan Edition

Why being pale is far superior to being fake tanned

How to Look Tan Without the Sun or Self-Tanner When You're a Pale Sheet of Paper Like Me

How To Get A Real Tan If You're Fair, Pale, or Just Can't Tan


  • I agree that "pale" is the best single word. "I'm so pale" is always (that I can think of) intended to be lightly self-deprecating.
    – JamieB
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 20:03

Wow, I really need to get tanned. I'm so pale!

"Pale" describes very light skin. It's the first word that popped into my mind to fill in the blank.

Sorry, but "my cat is evolving" doesn't make sense in English. Americans typically associate the color green with radioactivity.

  1. Pallid
  2. Sallow
  3. Pasty or "pasty faced"
  4. Ofay
  • My first downvote, and I have no idea why! If the objector imagines that "ofay" is not self-deprecating, a little research may be in order. Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 5:28
  • There's no telling what an unexplained downvote is supposed to mean. Often any mention of anything within topics where "political correctness" gets upset, even if you aren't disagreeing with the politically correct view, attracts downvotes. I'd say to wear it as a badge of honor, except that when I did a little googling, all I found on ofay suggested that it's a racial slur, not suggestive of an especially light skin tone for lack of a tan. Can you provide a pointer to the research you have in mind?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 16:07
  • I doubt that this attracted the downvote, but "pasty-faced" should have a hyphen (not that I'm trying to outpedant you).
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 16:10
  • @BenKovitz I debated the hyphen for a while, and the hyphen lost. I've tried to standardize my usage to conform to modernity recently, and the hyphen seems to be disappearing. In the case of "ofay," I admit to a bit of mischief. It was a common slur in Black American usage in the 50's and 60's, often combined as "you ofay m----f----er," but could also be used self-deprecatingly by "grey faces" in banter with one's Black friends. In any case, it certainly means "white." What really fascinates me about this question, though, is the evolving cat. Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 1:18
  • 1
    With a username like P. E. Dant, you've caved in to modernity and given up the hyphen?? O tempora o mores!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 4:09

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